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Planned crude oil futures may see foreign investment

By Chen Jia | China Daily | Updated: 2013-03-13 10:42

Proposal awaits approval from authorities, says NPC deputy

China's planned crude oil futures will likely see the first attempt to inject foreign investments into the mainland's commodity derivatives market, after a long absence by foreign investors, a top official at the mainland's largest futures exchange said on Wednesday.

The proposal is waiting approval from the State Council, China's cabinet, and the exchange is also in talks with the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on the matter, said Yang Maijun, president of the Shanghai Futures Exchange and a deputy of the 12th National People's Congress.

"Foreign institutional investors will first have to get approval from the futures regulatory department under the State Council, and then apply for an investment quota from the SAFE before entering the mainland futures market," said Yang.

The exchange will provide a special trading platform for foreign investors.

"The quota will be only approved for a specific futures product, for example, crude oil. Within that quota, foreign fund holders will be able to freely exchange renminbi with other currencies," said Yang.

The top securities regulator has banned foreign investors from the mainland's futures markets since the 1990s.

Also, to accelerate cross-border futures trading, the exchange plans to launch after-hours trading by the end of the year.

"We plan to add an early-trading period, from 9:30 pm to 2:30 am Beijing time," Yang said.

The current trading times for the exchange are from 9 am to 11:30 am and from 1:30 pm to 3 pm.

The exchange has finished designing the basic trading structures and started international trading tests on Jan 18, he said.

"We are communicating with the relevant government departments about possible tax cuts or tax-free policies for foreign futures investors," Yang added.

He added that there are plans to allow overseas investors to trade other futures contracts, such as nonferrous metals and precious metals.

In November 2012, the State Council approved a new version of the futures trading regulations, which allows qualified foreign institutional investors to participate in mainland futures exchanges, but only in a limited range of products.

The new rules, which have been in force since December 2012, will allow foreign funds to invest in more types of futures products.

By the end of 2012, the Shanghai Futures Exchange had launched 10 types of futures products. The exchange ranks 13th among the world's largest derivatives markets, and is the fourth-biggest commodities futures trading platform.

Last year, the exchange's annual trading volume was 89.2 trillion yuan ($14.17 trillion), up 2.6 percent year-on-year, according to Yang.

The launch of the crude oil futures is expected to provide a reference price, which will allow the National Development and Reform Commission to refer to when adjusting oil prices, Yang added.

Zhang Ping, head of the NDRC, said last week that the commission is planning to change the current oil pricing system, to better reflect international oil price fluctuations.

Hu Yuyue, the head of the Securities and Futures Research Institution of the Beijing Technology and Business University, said that the opening-up of China's commodities futures market is in the initial stages, although the mainland's futures markets is the largest in the world by value.

"Large qualified foreign institutional investors can support the development of the domestic futures market, and allow it to become an international commodity pricing center," said Hu.

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